County gives okay to courthouse square concept

Published 3:11 pm Thursday, July 24, 2008

Polk County commissioners gave their initial nod of approval to the Town of Columbus&squo; concept to improve Courthouse and Gibson streets.

Columbus Town Manager Tim Holloman and Columbus Mayor Kathleen McMillian presented options for courthouse square enhancements to commissioners during a county meeting on Monday and answered questions. Columbus council members were also in attendance.

County commissioners approved supporting the town&squo;s concept, but said they are not in favor of relocating the Doughboy statue or cutting down large trees surrounding the historic courthouse.

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Columbus officials asked the county specifically about adding a shelter on front of the Womack building and closing off a gravel area currently used for parking to extend a sidewalk.

&dquo;We just wanted to make sure everyone is comfortable with the general concept,&dquo; said Holloman.

Commissioners said they have no problem with the shelter or the sidewalk and commissioners said they&squo;ve been talking for some time about improving the front of the Womack building. Commissioner Ted Owens said he is open to aiding the town with costs for the Womack building improvement.

Commissioners and Columbus officials also agreed that architect Cecil Cannon, or some other designee, could have input from the county on the design for the front of the Womack building.

Holloman said the town is currently reviewing several options for street level improvements, including making Courthouse Street one-way from Hwy. 108 and Gibson Street one-way from Ward Street. Ward will remain two-way.

Improvements planned include landscaping, sidewalk improvements, the shelter on the Womack building and other amenities such as arbors, gazebos and bumpouts. Columbus is currently gathering public comments for the project and has extended the time for comments until Aug. 15. Residents are encouraged to visit Columbus Town Hall to write their comments on the design drawings, which are hanging in town council chambers. The town may hire an arborist to survey the trees to see which can stay and which should be replaced. The town may also consider forming a committee for the final design.

Columbus plans to use Powell Bill funding for the project and finance remaining costs.

McMillian also asked commissioners to keep parking spaces around the courthouse for public use ‐ specifically, she said, for the transportation department&squo;s vans.